Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bush's Insistence That The Military Stay

I have been so accustomed to being offended, even scandalized, by the policies of President Bush that my first reaction to the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group has been to accept it, and to again see Bush’s refusal to accept all that they recommend as more of his usual ignorant obstinacy. However, after a little reflection I have to say that their recommendation that the U. S. military get out of Iraq by a certain time is a mistake (anyway, it will not happen, as I explain below). Here, at least, I understand George W. Bush’s insistence that the American military should stay long enough to quell the opposition.

The invasion of Iraq was a blunder of incomparable proportions – it was a blunder to go in under false pretenses (to say nothing of the dishonesty of leading the American people to believe that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack), and it was a blunder to start a “pre-emptive war” – but now that we have actually invaded Iraq, what is there to do? Bush claims that we have to finish the job; indeed, I do so wish that the US could overcome the image that its troops normally flee from conflict after a few losses. I grieve for the loss of American military personnel for what was a boondoggle of unforgivable proportions. None of this had to be. But now – now that the mess has been made, the U. S. may create more mayhem if it does not follow through.

The pattern has not been missed on Osama, who has repeatedly pointed out the American practice of avoiding conflict: American troops withdrew after 241 servicemen were killed in Lebanon in 1983; they withdrew after 19 were killed in Mogadishu in 1993; they did nothing much to avenge the deaths of 5 servicemen in Riyadh or 19 killed in Dhahran in 1996; and after 220 people were killed in the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Clinton administration did no more than fire off some rockets into Afghanistan (most of which missed). If the American servicemen are withdrawn now, after four years of war, the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, and the squandering of scandalous billions of dollars, Osama and the most radical takfiri militarists will, as they suppose, be proven right. The most radical of militants will be emboldened to continue violent causes, if not in the West then least in various countries of the Middle East.

The situation is complicated by multiple mis-readings of each others’ point of view. The Americans think of themselves as liberators who are doing good – even if as it happens they are acting very much in their own self interest (more below). The Iraqi people want the Americans to leave because they see the Americans as invaders like the Ottomans and British. The radical Islamists see themselves as fighting unbelievers in the Middle East and Americans as well as others in the West in order to establish – rather, re-establish – a proper Islamic society under a true Caliphate, the sort that has not existed since, say, the eighth century. What is not being made clear is that even if our troops are “pulled out” they will not be far away and could be sucked into conflict again. Whatever the Americans do or appear to do, there is virtually no chance that they will genuinely “leave” the area: The huge natural wealth of the region will continue to draw American interests, indeed those of the whole world, into the area.
Note this map:

Within this ellipsis is 70% of the world’s known oil resources and about 70% of the world’s known gas resources. This region is destined to be the focus of future struggles for dominance in the world. (
BGR, 2006, “Petroleum” Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Hannover. http://www.bgr.bund.de/cln_030/nn_468074/EN/Themen/Energie/Bilder/Ene__Erdoel__allg__BILD2__g__en.html (accessed October 14, 2006)]

No wonder the Americans are building the largest embassy in the world just outside Bagdad – to mention another matter not much reported to the American people. The new embassy will be as big as the Vatican, about 104 acres. It will house a number of high-rise buildings, already being constructed. That the Bagdad embassy will be strategically situated in such fossil-fuel rich area is of course no accident. So it turns out that, whatever the appearances, whatever the Baker-Hamilton report recommends, the United States is not really leaving.


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